Narrow Scope, Limited Surprise

A Response to “The Best Kansas City Music of 2013 – So Far”

As you may have guessed I’m a bit dissatisfied with KCUR’s “The Best Kansas City Music of 2013 – So Far,” written by Steve Kraske and Kaitlin Brennan. This program aired midday, June 26, 2013 in conjunction with several, local Kansas City music figures; Michelle Bacon, Bill Brownlee, and Chris Haghirian. All three of these individuals are dedicated, selfless supporters of local music, but I feel something may have been missed in their curation.

My issue with the program is not in terms of quality of selection, but with its homogeneity and predictability, and that these problems are commonplace. Seems Jazz, Americana, Indie Rock, and Rock are very well represented Kansas City’s media, critics, and promoters, but when last I looked the Kansas City scene had much more to offer.

Underrepresented are the slew of Psychedelic/garage rock resurgent acts, the experimental and avant-garde, as well as electronic musicians, DJ’s, and ethnic acts. Absent still is anything remotely punk, hardcore, and metal (with maybe the exception of The Architects, who are still more rock than anything). The entirety of the selection reads almost like a list of “Things White People Like.” Which may seem extreme until you notice there is only one hip-hop/rap selection.

This occurrence was, unfortunately, not a surprise. Anyone who regularly goes to shows or thumbs through The Pitch, Ink, or The Star would know that a lot of the bands selected are extremely well represented. It follows that a band with more press and higher reputation would be first when considering a “Best Of” list. Constantly providing coverage of and promoting the same musicians and bands creates a feedback loop and leaves some members of the community with the sense that, “This is all there is,” which is roundly untrue and culturally hazardous.

Admittedly, exposing audiences to unfamiliar music is also risky. Music writers don’t want to lose their hard-earned following to the likes of Cumulus/Clear Channel monotony. However, if there is any hope of creating a more diverse and open cultural community then what other option is there? As much as I abhor “Best Of” lists in principal, I feel a better sense of quality, local music could be conveyed through a selection of more diverse critics and writers to curate them. While it may be the duty of all critics, promoters, and writers to strive for a more complete knowledge of music, I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and suggest that the reason there are no electronic, experimental, or avant-garde musicians is because there were no critics on the panel that specialized in those areas. Hopefully vast portions of KC’s music culture were not overlooked simply because the critics or producers of this program did not care or thought the ratings would suffer otherwise.

Once a more diverse network of music writers, promoters, and critics is more vocal toward the community, it’s likely Kansas City residents will begin to demand, cultivate, and support more diverse forms of music. If we fail to do this Kansas City will remain homogenous and insular, with one wave of musicians commanding the attention of the audiences until their sound  becomes old and they are replaced by the next generation. While this occurs other midwest cities such as Minneapolis and Chicago will continue to produce acts that are both locally and nationally respected and we’ll get to compete with Lawrence for having them play in our city.


Below is a link to the original story, listen and decide for yourself:

  1. Hi Andrew… I just happened to stumble upon this looking around at other music blogs. I’m Michelle, one of the panelists on KCUR that day. I run The Deli Magazine-Kansas City, and wanted to let you know (1) I appreciate your blog and perspective and the diversity of music you seem to represent on there by my brief perusal (so far) of your site. (2) I don’t disagree with what you said—part of what we’ve been trying to do at The Deli is find a diverse team of contributors from all genres to truly capture the KC sound. Unfortunately we haven’t quite done that yet, but perhaps one day. My email is if you ever want to get in touch and talk music. Would like to hear more of your ideas and will begin following your blog.

    Cheers, Michelle Bacon

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